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Conferees Discuss Strategic Relevance of Defense Intelligence

Date: Fall 2003

"If we can identify a target anywhere on Earth, we can destroy it." So said Stephen Younger, director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) at the third of a year-long series of IWP conferences on 21st century intelligence requirements. Despite those awesome capabilities, partly made possible by space-based intelligence platforms, Dr. Younger added that the human intelligence factor remains vital: "You can't see from space into the hearts and minds of people."

The defense intelligence community's traditional roles of supplying tactical intelligence for battlespace support and for tactical defense planning proved their mettle once again in the Battle of Afghanistan in 2001-2002, and the Battle of Iraq in 2003. But what about the strategic role of defense intelligence?

The IWP event, titled "Understanding the Enemy: Will Defense Intelligence Be Strategically Relevant?" was held on May 13, 2003, just a month after the liberation of Iraq. It was the last of three conferences on "Intelligence Requirements for the 21st Century," dedicated to the memory of the late CIA Director William J. Casey.

Matching means to ends, a panel that discussed intellectual, technological, financial, management and oversight measures, included Kenneth deGraffenreid, professor of intelligence studies at IWP and deputy under secretary of defense for policy support; RADM Michael Ratliff USN (Ret.), former director of the Office of Naval Intelligence; and Timothy Sample, former majority staff director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Notra Trulock, former director of intelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy and author of Code Name Kindred Spirit: Inside the Chinese Nuclear Scandal, described the "mess" he found in 1995 when he tried to grapple with Chinese espionage against U.S. nuclear weapons scientists and programs – a symptom of greater problems at Energy, he said. Working with the CIA, he was able to demonstrate a 20-year Chinese espionage offensive to steal American nuclear weapons secrets. Mr. Trulock added that the FBI field offices performed poorly during that time: "The best effort I ever saw was run at Livermore [National Laboratory] by Bill Cleveland – who turns out to have been having an affair with a Chinese agent."

BGEN Walter Jajko USAFR (Ret.) delivered a thoughtful and provocative essay on "leadership and ethos," concluding that defense intelligence suffers from "systemic problems" including "inadequate leadership" that saps morale. Consequently, said Gen. Jajko, an adjunct professor of military strategy at IWP, defense intelligence suffers from "second-rate leadership and third-rate intellect." Former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Robert Andrews and Dr. John Dziak, a former senior intelligence officer at the Department of Defense, and IWP adjunct professor, joined DTRA's Stephen Younger in off-the-record comments about Jajko's well-reasoned essay.

With 90 percent of the world war against terrorism expected to be intelligence-related and only 10 percent to be actual combat, the U.S. intelligence community is faced with historic challenges. Conference participants agreed that the American way of collecting, analyzing, and producing intelligence is mostly stuck in Cold War mindsets and processes that are irrelevant to present-day realities. Some argued for a "revolution in intelligence affairs," similar to the "revolution in military affairs" (RMA) underway in the Pentagon.

"We're doing well on tactical intelligence, but not so much on strategic intelligence," said Younger. "We need a transfor- mation in strategic intelligence of heroic proportions."

"There is little evidence of major movement in the intelligence community," noted Andrew J. Bacevich, director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University and author of American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy. "The response has been for the most part to continue the status quo. There has been no major reorganization."

The system needs more than high-tech tools and bureaucratic reshuffling, though. "We see immense resources placed on acquisition of the world's best technological tools, but little emphasis on improving the vital skills of analysis, education and training," observed former House Intelligence Committee staff director Sample. The Department of Defense, Mr. Sample said, "has to treat intelligence differently. It's not a weapons system. You can't just buy it. It must be developed and nurtured."

"Throughout the 1990s the depth of analytical skill in the intelligence agencies eroded," said Richard Haver, special assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who has conducted damage assessments of dozens of intelligence failures. "And when you get down to the nubs, you always find the same problem – a lack of analytic rigor among officials who didn't understand what were the missing pieces."

"In defense intelligence, the problem is one of bureaucratization," added Bill Gertz, national security correspondent for the Washington Times.

Intelligence reform also requires leadership – at all levels of the bureaucracy. Even in the second and third tiers of defense intelligence, according to a participating government official, "moral leadership and fortitude are in short supply." Gertz said he has observed a "defeatist attitude" among many career intelligence analysts who are in what he calls "a careerist mode."

Moral relativism throughout the national security community has led to faulty analysis, betrayal and treason, said some participants. It is "a demon that will rise up and strike us," in the words of Col. Daniel Gallington USAF (Ret.), a former senior Pentagon official and chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Dr. Owen Smith, a benefactor of the Institute, joined IWP Director John Lenczowski
in concluding remarks. Dr. Smith and his wife, Bernadette Casey Smith, sponsored the conference series.

Many conference participants agreed that with proper training, advanced education, cadre-building and leadership, the U.S. can pull itself out of the hole it has dug."If the right people are in the right places, you have the right leadership – it will work," said Mr. Haver. "It may take a decade for the public to see the results of the reforms. If we do it right."